Self-proclaimed as a fun-loving, fierce brand from Melbourne, Shhh Silk has managed to build a successful international offering. How? The company’s founder, Olivia Carr, spills the beans.
Turning your side hustle into a business is never easy, but for this Melbourne mum, breaking into the Australian market wasn’t enough – she wanted her brand to be internationally acclaimed as well.
How did she make this somewhat bold ambition a reality? With a lot of patience and tenacity, and a few celebrity endorsements probably didn’t go astray.
“I’ve always believed it takes just as much effort to launch in your own market as it does to a new market,” Carr says. “We focused mainly on the USA and Australia for the first 18 months and within the first 12 months, the USA was our main market.
“We are now focusing on major markets globally – is it hard? No, it’s fun. Every market has its nuances, but we love discovering what they are.”
The Challenges of Cross-Border E-Commerce
Despite countless successes, Carr has also faced a number of challenges since launching her brand in 2015. Manufacturing in China has been one of the more notable ones.
When asked what she would change if she could go back in time, apart from joking about her lack of exercise in the early days of her brand, she named China as a big hurdle that she wishes she knew more about.
“I would have sought to understand the Chinese culture sooner, and stressed less about everything.”
In particular, Carr has had to invest a lot of time into ensuring manufacturing for her luxury silk brand is up-to-scratch. When using offshore manufacturers, she says this process has been challenging.
“China is a big learning curve for any new brand and we have learnt to be more patient and persistent as a result,” she says.
“Quality has always been our main focus as a brand, and manufacturing can make this challenging because silk is still very much a manual, handmade product that has constraints on growth and scale.
“This means quality control is a constant struggle. We are not in the factories weekly. You need to push hard and constantly fight for the quality standards you expect for your brand. You can never relax your attitude on this.”
Carr also says that trying to break into new markets individually is difficult. By looking at her business through an international lens from day one, she believes she made this process easier, which led to her desire to target high-profile celebrities in the US.
Shhh Silk and the Kardashian and Jenner Sisters
“To achieve success in the US market, I knew I needed to target huge celebrities who already endorsed silk products independently,” Carr says.
Back in 2014, Kim Kardashian was photographed at LAX airport with a pillow that sat snugly inside a black silk pillowcase. Armed with the knowledge the Kardashian’s and Jenner’s use silk products in their daily lives, and that they’re arguably one of the most influential beauty and fashion icons of the 21st century, Carr wanted to introduce them to her own silk brand.
In order to achieve this, Carr knew she needed to go through Kris Jenner, the mum and manager of the Kardashian and Jenner clan.
“I had a goal, a dream if you like, and that was to make sure the Kardashian’s received our silk pillowcases.”
With this in mind, she hand-delivered a package of pillowcase samples to Kris Jenner in the hopes the girls would take a liking to them. Luckily for Carr, they did. From here, her relationship with the influential family continued to grow and ended up opening a whole new personalisation market for the popular silk brand.
“It’s amazing to see them wearing our designs and using them in their homes, and the impact on sales is incredible,” Carr says.
“When any celebrity is spotted genuinely enjoying a product, particularly when it is not a paid endorsement such as ours, consumers feel a sense of trust in our brand. We also appreciate the sheer power of social marketing when we share these celeb spotted moments.”
Breaking into the US, and now other global markets have meant PR and social media marketing has been two big focus points for Carr.
“Our target consumers have grown up with iPhones, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. For us, Instagram is still our most effective non-paid form of marketing.
“Although, PR is definitely a huge priority for our brand and has been since day one. There have been many a month where we have literally spent every last dollar on good PR activities,” she jokes.
What’s next for Shhh Silk? Carr is keeping the business’s plans carefully guarded, but given her love for her brand, consumers are no doubt expecting big things.
“We don’t see this as work, we all see this as our life, future, and we all love the experience and very much feel blessed to have this brand.”